September 3, 2014
by Alan Cross – griffinshockey.com
Making the leap from junior to professional hockey is difficult.
Grand Rapids Griffins right wing Martin Frk knows all too well the challenges of transitioning to a more skilled level of play. Detroit’s first choice, 49th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Frk spent a majority of the 2013-14 season just getting his feet wet in the AHL.
While the Griffins enjoyed a very successful season overall, Frk struggled to reach his full potential.
This was anything but the case for Frk in his final season before turning pro. As a member of the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, he was used to one thing: success.
In 2012-13, Frk and his teammates compiled a 58-6-3-1 regular season record en route to capturing the President Cup and the CHL’s Memorial Cup. He ranked second on the Mooseheads and 13th in the league in scoring with 84 points (35-49—84) in 56 games and buffered his resume with a long list of other accomplishments, including representing the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.
After a tremendous junior career, Frk came to the AHL with understandably high expectations.
Starting as a rookie with Grand Rapids, he went scoreless in six games before being reassigned to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. With an opportunity for more ice time, Frk notched 13 points (5-8—13) in 15 games and began easing into the higher level of play.
“I think there were a lot of guys in Grand Rapids when the season started and, for me, it was my first season in pros,” said Frk. ”I kind of was thinking about that, that I had to go straight down to Toledo and play there and get my ice time back.
“It was a good thing for me that I went there because you want to play, you don’t want to sit. I really liked it there. It’s a tough league – very hard and tough. You’re only playing three lines so you have a lot of playing time. But it was great to get the call that said I was going back to Grand Rapids.”
Summoned just prior to Christmas, Frk remained with the Griffins for the duration of the season, and he scored his first AHL point, an assist, on Jan. 18 versus the Abbotsford Heat. In all, he tallied three goals and nine assists during the regular season before going scoreless in four playoff games.
Although his point production turned up toward the end of the season, Frk was not satisfied with his overall performance.
“I think that the first pro season is a real mental game. I was really struggling hard with that because I didn’t know why I couldn’t keep up with the guys playing,” said Frk. “I was thinking that I was doing the right things, but I was not doing the right things on the ice. I was thinking too much about that.”
Cut from the same cloth as Frk was teammate Tomas Jurco, Detroit’s first choice in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, one year prior to Frk’s selection as Detroit’s first pick. Jurco joined the Griffins during the 2012-13 season and also had trouble finding his footing early on. However, he became a major point contributor by the end of his rookie season and racked up 14 postseason points (8-6—14) to help Grand Rapids secure its first-ever Calder Cup.
While Jurco spent a majority of last season with the Red Wings, he had knowledge to impart upon Frk when both were playing in Grand Rapids.
“I talked with Jurco a lot last year. He told me it isn’t easy to come from juniors to pro,” said Frk. “He had a good team for the three years he played with St. John’s. He told me, ‘Yeah, you can have a good team and good players around you, but it’s a little different when you come to the pros because there are guys who have played here longer than you. You have to show the coach you want to take their spot.’
“I was thinking about that a lot, and he was right. And last year he played with the Red Wings, so it was kind of cool to see how he got better and better each day and see him stay in Detroit for a while.”
Now a year after Frk turned pro, his rookie experiences have prepared him for an entirely new season, both physically and mentally. Early this summer, he arrived in Grand Rapids to begin a strict training regimen that he hopes will take his game to the next level.
“I came here two months ago to start training with [Griffins strength and conditioning coordinator Marcus Kinney],” said Frk. “Last year when I came to training camp in Traverse City, I was not ready. I didn’t work as hard last summer, so I kind of said to myself, ‘I want to be ready for next season, I want to have a better season than last year’.
“I just started going on the ice last week, but most of the workouts before that were off-ice in the gym and a lot of running and speed and agility exercises. My focus was to lose some weight, but gain speed and agility for sure, too. I have to be quick on the ice, so that’s what I told Marcus I wanted to do.”
Despite the obstacles Frk faced last season, he’s prepared to take on the season ahead as a faster, stronger and smarter player.
“I have to be better for the upcoming season, and I think I will do much better than last year.”